How 15 Montreal Streets Got Their Names — Spoiler: 'Rosemont' Is A Lie
You're telling me there's no "pink mountain"?
"Saint-Denis" isn't actually named after a saint and though "Rosemont" might suggest the existence of a "pink mountain," no such thing exists. These are just a few of the oddities that dot Montreal's cityscape. Street names are an integral part of neighbourhood identities, though their origins often pass unexamined. In the case of Montreal, our street names form a paved tableau honouring the people that literally gave shape to the city, mostly rich egotistical white dudes.
Montreal neatly catalogues its odonymy (street naming history) in a publicly available online resource.
Here are the origins of 15 Montreal street names, according to those city records.
The City of Montreal poses three hypotheses as to the origin of the name Sainte-Catherine for the east-west commercial street in Ville-Marie. It's possible, the city says, that it takes its name from an 18th-century French settler, Catherine de Bourbonnais. Another theory is that a road inspector named Jacques Viger named the street after his stepdaughter, Catherine-Élizabeth. The third possibility is that the name is linked to a path that once led to a nunnery.
Décarie was the last name of a landowning family in the vicinity, the city says.
Rue Saint-Denis commemorates Denis Viger, the deceased husband of a 19th-century landowner, Périne-Charles Cherrier, whose erstwhile property the street transects, according to the city.
Here's one example where the knotty politics of language and identity are inscribed in Montreal's toponymy. Avenue Papineau is named after Joseph Papineau, an 18th and 19th-century public official and politician.
Though the City of Montreal notes that his name marked the street from its creation, English loyalists later stripped the moniker from the cityscape after Papineau's son took part in the rebellion of 1837. Those officials renamed the street after Queen Victoria, according to city records. It was re-renamed Papineau by the end of the 19th century.
boulevard de Maisonneuve
Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, was one of the founders of the French colonial settlement that would become Montreal.
The name of boulevard Gouin honours early 20th-century career politician Lomer Gouin.
avenue des Pins
Despite what many might assume, the name of this street doesn't describe any actual pine trees along its route. Instead, the moniker comes from celebrated landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted's plan for Mount Royal, which, according to the city, included naming some streets after tree species.
The City of Montreal ties the name of the street to Sir James Monk, an 18th-century landowner.
Boulevard Angrignon commemorates J.-B. Arthur Angrignon, a 20th-century Montreal city councillor.
So who was Rachel? Rachel Chamilly née Cadieux was the daughter of the landowner whose property would become the neighbourhoods that surround the street today.
The City of Montreal describes Jean Talon as the first colonial administrator of New France in the 17th century.
Another street named after a landowner. Étienne Guy was an 18th-century politician who occupied the land rue Guy now traverses.
The city says the name of rue Berri could derive from the name of 18th-century French settler Simon Després dit Le Berry, who owned land in the area.
No, there's no pink mountain. According to the city, the name Rosemont commemorates Rose Philipps, the mother of the man whose company, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, organized the area to serve the industrial needs of Canadian Pacific, whose tracks run between what are now the Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie and Plateau-Mont-Royal boroughs.
Rue Sherbrooke is named after John Coape Sherbrooke, a British colonial governor.